There’s no question that hiring a personal injury lawyer after a car accident will net you more money if you win. Through experience and legal knowledge, strong representation can earn you more compensation than you think you can get. But will all the extra money go to your lawyer?
While some lawyers require being paid a retainer for services, the good news is that, in most cases, it costs nothing to hire a car accident lawyer up front. Most law firms receive payment after you win your case. Here’s what you need to know about how fees work with a car accident lawyer.
Your Costs Depends on the Contingency Fee and What You Win
Most car accident lawyers do not take a fee up front. Instead, you pay them on a contingency basis. This means that they get a percentage of your settlement or jury award after your case.
This percentage varies depending on how complex your case is, state laws, and the legal market in your area. Industry standards range from 33% to 40% across California and other states.
This may sound like a lot, but an excellent lawyer will always try to earn you more money than what you’ll pay. If you compare what you would have received with no representation, you’ll see why the cost to hire a car accident lawyer is worth it.
Are There Hidden Fees?
The contingency agreement handles most expenses, but your attorney may have to pay certain costs over the course of your case, especially if you’re going to trial. These things include:
- Costs to get car accident reports and other evidence
- Deposition fees
- Court filing fees
- Incidental fees (e.g. postage)
Your agreement will state whether your lawyer will deduct these expenses before or after they take their cut. The best case for you is the second option. You will receive more money because your lawyer receives less.
Your lawyer should make it plain to you which option they use in their practice. Both are common and ethical. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to afford those fees, find a payment arrangement or another lawyer that fits your situation.
What Other Fee Structures Are There?
There are other kinds of fee structures in the legal world, but in personal injury the industry standard is contingency. However, you may run into a few others in the personal injury field.
Retainer and Contingency
A retainer is a fee paid to a lawyer in advance before they work for you. They can use this money for profit or to help pay for research and court fees for your case rather than relying on the firm’s money to do it.
In personal injury practice, charging a retainer is a sign that the lawyer is inexperienced, is not confident in your case, or is having financial difficulties. This doesn’t mean that the lawyer is bad, but it is an extra expense for you.
This is a very rare form of fee structure in personal injury. A flat fee for services usually happens with criminal representation.
If you need a one-off legal service, like writing a letter to your insurance company asserting your rights, a car accident lawyer might charge a flat fee. Most of the time, you’ll hire a car accident lawyer on a contingency basis.
This is the one that scares most people away from hiring lawyers. Fortunately, if you’re the injured party in a car accident case, you’ll never get charged an hourly fee for your lawyer’s services.
However, the situation is different if you’re sued directly in a car accident case as a defendant. If you have significant assets and you’re the defendant in a case, you may have to pay an hourly fee to hire a car accident lawyer.
What’s an Example of a Contingency Payment?
Let’s say you sign a 30% contingency agreement with your lawyer and win your case. Your compensation is $300,000, and your court fees were $30,000. If your lawyer takes their cut first, your lawyer would get $90,000 and you would get $180,000.
Can you pay your lawyer after expenses? There would be $270,000 to split. Your lawyer would get $81,000 and you would receive the other $189,000. You can see that you get more with this option.
What if you lose your case? Likely, you pay nothing to your lawyer because of the contingency agreement. However, we urge you to read any agreement carefully and ask questions about what you might owe if you lose your case before you sign.
Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Costs Less Than You Think
If you suffered an injury in a car accident, you may want a car accident lawyer to advocate for you. Your lawyer can get to the bottom of what caused your car accident by requesting a crash report to determine its contributing factors and help you obtain appropriate compensation.
When you are ready to learn more about how much it may cost to hire a car accident lawyer and the benefits a lawyer might offer, contact a local law firm to find out more.